Examining What Sharing Really Means
Lesson 1 for "The Senegalese Miracle"
- Africa, Senegal
- Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
- Cross-Cultural Understanding, Language Arts & Literature, Social Studies & Geography
Students examine the remarkable degree of sharing that the author encounters upon arrival in Africa.
About the Story
"The Senegalese Miracle" describes Kaldi's arrival in Senegal and her first encounter with the local population. After deplaning and boarding a bus, the new Peace Corps Volunteers have occasion to encounter a Senegalese man and his family who offer them oranges and explain the "Senegalese miracle," a phenomenon entailing hospitality and generosity. The story gives students another view of themes raised by Mike Tidwell in "Sharing in Africa," and makes an excellent companion piece.
About the Setting
Because Senegal was a French colony, French is the official language in the country, but many local languages are also spoken. Like many of its West African neighbors, Senegal, which has a population of 9.2 million, ranks among the least developed countries in the world. Under its new industrial policy, the government is attempting to stimulate the economy through the reduction of bureaucracy and the privatization of state industries. Progress is being made, but many factors still hinder the country's development. Desertification continues to affect agricultural production. Roughly 70 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture, but agriculture contributes less than 25 percent of the country's gross domestic product. At present, many Senegalese do not have access to basic health care. To address these needs, Peace Corps Volunteers, more than 2,500 of whom have served in Senegal since 1963, focus their efforts in the areas of agriculture, business development, environment, and health.
For further information about Senegal, visit the country-information section of the Peace Corps website at www.peacecorps.gov.
- To reflect on the enduring understanding, "Attitudes toward sharing differ among different cultures."
- Apprenti:: [uh-PRON-tee] French for apprentices to the bus or truck driver, who collect the fares and assist passengers with luggage
- Baobab: [BAY-uh-bab] A tree indigenous to semi-arid parts of Africa, which develops an enormously thick trunk and has a life span of perhaps a thousand years
- Ignoble: not grand
- Swale: a depression in the land
- Boubou:: [BOO-boo] A long, flowing robe that is traditional clothing in Senegal
- Proffer: To offer; give
- N'est-ce pas?: [ness PAH?] French expression for "Isn't that so?" Many Senegalese speak French because Senegal was a French colony.
- Wiry: Thin, lean, sinewy
- "The Senegalese Miracle" by Leita Kaldi (see link above)
- Map of Senegal (see link above)
- Show students a map of Senegal and, using information from the introduction, provide information about the author and the setting. Point out that Americans can join the Peace Corps at any stage in their lives, not only in the early stages of their careers.
Have students read the story. Ask them to note the sentences or lines they liked the most while reading. When students have finished reading, ask them to describe in their journals the lines they highlighted, and why. Then have students respond in their journals to the following prompts:
- What do you think the author wanted her readers to be thinking about?
- What is Kaldi's most important point?
Have students share their journal responses with a partner. Then conduct a class discussion about their responses, and also about the more literal questions that follow. Remind students to cite evidence from the text to support their answers:
- What are Kaldi's first impressions of Africa? How does she feel about being there?
- What opportunity does the tire blowout give her?
- Describe the people she meets while her group is waiting for the flat tire to be fixed. How do they greet her?
- What thoughts does this story bring to mind about generosity? About hospitality?
If students have read "Sharing in Africa," ask them what connections they find between Kaldi's description of her first day in Senegal and Tidwell's description of life in the chiefdom of Kalambayi.
- Refer students to Tidwell's statement in "Sharing in Africa": "It was truly overwhelming, all this giving. The Kalambayans were some of the poorest people anywhere in the world, and yet they were by far the most generous I had ever met. Indeed, each time I thought I had been offered everything they had to share, something new was laid at my feet."
- Have students compare the customs Tidwell describes in what was then Zaire with Kaldi's description of the customs in Senegal: "Like most Africans," Kaldi's brief host explained in elegant French, "we are poor, but we believe in sharing. Whatever I have never belongs to me alone, but to my family and all my brothers and sisters who have less."
- Why the poorest of people might be among the most generous.
- How American culture compares with the cultures in the author's region of Senegal and in Kalambayi, in regard to sharing.
- Why people in different cultures might have different attitudes toward sharing.
- Read aloud the last paragraph of the story. Ask students to describe "the Senegalese miracle." What is the nature of that miracle?
- Point out to students that, since this was Kaldi's story, she could have ended it any way she wanted. Ask them why they think she made the decision to end the story with the phrase: "Where I was coming from, that would be a miracle in itself."
Journal Activity. For homework, ask students to respond in their journals to the following questions:
- In general, how would you describe the attitude in the United States toward strangers?
- Describe a time when you were a stranger in a place or situation. How were you treated?
- Describe a time when you observed someone else who was a stranger in a new place or situation. How was that person treated?
- In what ways does your school welcome strangers and make them feel at home? What more could students do to help? What could you do to help?
- Optional Activity. Have students write a brief narrative, about the length of Kaldi's story, titled "The American Miracle." In it, students should focus on an aspect of their own culture that seems, on careful reflection, to be remarkable. If students have difficulty getting started, suggest they think about some of the organizations they know about in their culture; or some of the basic necessities of life, such as fresh water, they can almost count on being available; or remarkable individuals they know or know about.
Frameworks & Standards
- Attitudes toward sharing vary among different cultures.
- People offer hospitality in many ways, depending on the culture.
- What value does our culture place on sharing? (Consider money, food, shelter, material goods.)
- How do we know when we've shared enough?
- How does our school or community treat new arrivals? What kind of hospitality do we show?
- How can I help to make new people in my school or community feel at home?
English Standards: 2, 3, 6
Social Studies Standards: I, IV
National Geography Standards: 10, 11, 13
For more information on the standards in Uncommon Journeys, see the Appendix (pdf—160 KB, linked above).